BACKGROUND: This was our eleventh cruise in 3 years with NCL, our third reposition, and first time on Norwegian Spirit. We are young at heart although both retired. We love to cruise and we don't care where the ship goes, just as long as we get some sea days. EMBARKATION: We flew straight to Boston on Alaska Airlines and stayed at the Parker House Hotel which was really lovely. After meeting our other 3 travel mates it was off to see the city (follow the Freedom Trail), the city tour which included a stop at Old Ironsides (which we toured and it was wonderful), followed by a delicious dinner. The weather held until we left port, which was kind of Boston to do for us, having never been there. Although we were booked in a suite there was no special line for us to enter to do our paperwork, but there also were no lines to wait in. All the 'suite' people were brought together and after about a 15 minute wait we were free to board. Champagne awaited everyone and we assured the crew we knew how to get to our cabin and headed straight there. As our cabin was not quite ready, we went up to Cagney's for lunch and then returned to meet our cabin steward who just happened to be the same one we had last year on our Panama Canal trip on Norwegian Pearl. I'm not sure whose eyes got bigger, Victor's or mine, when we recognized each other! Shortly after, our butler, Jose, came by to introduce himself. We unpacked our roll aboard bags and then went to Raffles to pick up some items for folks to munch on that were coming to our cabin for sail away. Muster went quickly, our guests began to arrive and suddenly we were sailing, laughing, and just having fun meeting after emailing for so long. MEET & GREET: We had a wonderful M&G attended by many (I didn't have many name tags left unclaimed) and was attended by Michelle Taladhay, Guest Services Manager, Manny Hernandez, Bar Manager, Frank Hasenwinkel, Hotel Director, Stephane Coutouly, Food and Beverage Dir, Adine Barrett, Restaurant Manager, Paul Scally, Cruise Director, Erika Heim, Concierge, Peter Heine, Executive Chef, Bruce Van Der Boon, Group Services Coordinator (thanks for setting everything up for us!), and last, but certainly not least, Captain Kenneth Harstrom (a last minute request/no fog). We had a wonderful M&G although we had to be out in one hours time, which for this size of group was not enough time, because it was about to be used for those who had missed muster the day before (the 'naughty room'). Special thanks to Zim Paguntalah for setting up the food and beverages for us; he did a great job and stood by in case we needed anything else. Thank you to the officers, crew and NCL for hosting us, not once, but twice! We had a second M&G half way through the cruise and were greeted again by officers and mimosas—Thank You! FUNCTIONS: As part of the 'suite' life we attended the Captain's cocktail party which was lovely and a great time to reconnect with everyone. We were lucky enough to be selected to attend the Officer's Dinner and, after a cocktail reception, headed to Windows for a lovely dinner. We dined with Staff Captain Niklas Persson, who was charming and a wonderful dinner companion. Our table got a little rowdy, so Captain had to scold us a bit, but nonetheless we had a fabulous time. Niklas also arranged for us to view the bridge on the last day at sea and I always enjoy these as each bridge of the various ships is just a bit different; this one in particular is different in the placement of the auto pilot and some gauges were in different spots. I was also pleased to meet the first lady (Second Officer) Yasendy Santanmaria on the NCL line. Couldn't leave without giving her a 'high five'! Thanks to Niklas, Yasendy, First Officer Piotr Porosinski, and Captain Kenneth for allowing this visit. ENTERTAINMENT: Most of the time a friend in our group and I would dance the night away to Modal Magic in Galaxy of the Stars. Not many of the crew dancers are all that good at real dancing and there aren't many of them, so the girlfriends just got up and danced. So I want to thank Frank Hasenwinkel and Paul Scally for the wonderful dances (Frank, you really surprised me!). Paul Scally and his crew did a great job of setting up a haunted house theme for the theatre entrance and in Galaxy for Halloween. The Halloween party in Galaxy was a lot of fun and even crew were allowed to attend as the GI had reduced numbers greatly. As I get seasick in the theatre (the only place I do), I cannot comment on the shows but did hear some wonderful reviews from other people in our group. SPA/GYM: Had a wonderful Swedish deep tissue massage at the spa and loved it. Wish I could have found more time to have one more before disembarkation. I used the gym once, but the temperature was like a sauna and the equipment cramped, some not operable and just generally not a good gym (too small of a ship for a good gym). I took to walking the Promenade on sea days, walking at the ports and dancing the night away (I only gained 2 lbs this cruise). SHOPPING ON BOARD: As this is a smaller ship, there is not a lot of shopping to be had, but I did find a couple of things I liked. Having designed the tee shirts for our M&G group, I understand the shops were inundated with requests for them. They finally came up with something, but I never did see them. (Yes, NCL approved the shirts I designed.) I should also add that this was our seventh sail of the year, so most of the products were familiar to me. PHOTOGRAPHERS: These were some of the best photos I've gotten in a long time and I hit the $150 mark so that anything after that was free. Thanks to Mark for trying to find my photo with Frank at the gangway—little did we know that Frank had pulled it and gifted it to me (thank you, Frank, for your kindness). Restaurants: We ate at Raffles once as we were craving a huge salad and it didn't disappoint. I get really antsy around so many people, so we just ate and left (this was before the GI set in). Le Bistro and Cagney's never disappoint and we ate there 3 nights each, including our 'last supper' (as we call it) for our group of 10 (Ruth, thanks for putting up with the rowdy group again!). Twice we ordered from Blue Lagoon for a 'picnic' in our suite with our 3 other friends and had a great time just being alone and eating 'wangs' to our hearts content. Our butler did a wonderful job of setting everything up for us including the necessary items to make martinis. We also dined at Shogun two nights, plus Stephane Coutouly arranged for 10 of us to have a private dinner of authentic Indian food (our waiter is from India, so he was able to describe everything beautifully), in Shogun's private dining area. I believe we had about 11 courses in all and everyone described leaving the table that night and waddling back to their cabins! Spectacular meal! Thank you, again, Stephane! And then there is La Trattoria where we ate 3 times (sometimes just the 5 of us, sometimes more). George was a wonderful waiter, but Ricky really stole our hearts and we requested him for our next to last night meal. What fun we had (we're always the rowdy table) and we celebrated one of our member's birthday (twice!). And how lovely to find the beautiful Ruth in Cagney's again; we hadn't seen her in nearly two years and yet she remembered us (she is one you will never forget). The food never disappointed except at Windows (we never dine there) and one night we ordered from Shogun for our cabin and it was the worst meal we've ever had. I called Stephane the next morning to let him know and he made a point to talk with whomever was in charge of the meal and removed the charges from our bill. Normally I do not report such things, but this was really bad and I didn't want it to happen to anyone else. CABIN: We were in the Thai suite (10001), right under the bridge. Instead of a sliding glass door you got to feel like a real sailor, hoisting the round water tight doors to get the door open/closed and it could only be open in port or on really calm days. Although the ship underwent dry dock just a year ago, this ship is really showing the signs of age. There is a crack running from the front of the living area to the rear of the cabin in the ceiling, the closet doors no longer work properly and our cabin steward reported problems with the television armoire (which was worse after the repairman got done—note to NCL: get rid of the armoire and just put in a flat screen). One night we had to use the hide-a-bed and my sweet cabin steward did his best with feather beds to make it comfortable for me, but it was still a miserable night. Not to mention that in the morning when I folded it up, the covering on the foam core was covered in a disgustingly dirty cover that was starting to tear from age. GI: DH was not feeling well in Antigua, but he thought it was just the mixtures of alcohol and/or foods we were eating. During the night the dinner and drinks started erupting from both ends and I immediately called the front desk that then transferred me to the nurse. As night to day duty was just changing we waited about 15 minutes for a phone call of questions and answers and then she came right up to the cabin, gave DH a shot and some Imodium and he was out for the day and night (that's how I came to sleep on the hide-a-bed). It took him about 3 days to really feel better and he only missed one port that we had previously visited last year. SERVICE: Between Jose, our butler, and Victor, our cabin steward, we were spoiled to death! Jose realized that I love iced tea and, unrequested, brought me a pitcher of it every afternoon. Victor had to really go the extra mile as DH came down with the GI and he had to deal with all the disinfection of the room, cleaning up the mess, etc. And still the two of them checked on me regularly to see what they could do for us. Their kindness and thoughtfulness will never be forgotten. Everywhere we went the crew was kind, helpful, smiling and always happy to do something for us (even if we didn't need it). PORTS: We had already been to many of the ports last year on our Panama Canal reposition on Norwegian Pearl. Two ports were memorable for us: Guatemala—we only shopped at the 'mall' right off the ship. We had been warned not to venture out on our own and there were no excursions that interested us. Later we learned that one of our passengers had tragically been shot and killed in town, right outside of a church. Our hearts and prayers go out to this person's family. The other port was Costa Maya where we had a delightful morning shopping and then the outer bands of Hurricane Ida came. We were having lunch on the second floor of a restaurant, but with no windows we were soaked in seconds. The more it rained and blew the harder we laughed as we watched water bottles and pop cans float by us. The owner enjoyed our joy so much that he brought us each a shot of tequila, lime and salt and the slam began (I won, I might add)! So we walked back to the ship, hand in hand, singing and laughing, shoes squishing away...and a couple that was on HAL asked if they could come aboard with us and have fun too. Sorry...you missed the boat! I will also mention that in Antigua, just mere steps from the ship is a wonderful dress maker who made an evening dress for me and had it delivered to the ship before we left for under $200. In St. Thomas I found Italian made dance shoes for a reasonable price and they are like bedroom slippers, they are that comfortable. We did purchase two excursions, but one changed to an afternoon (ruins in Costa Maya) so we canceled that. In Barbados we went to the old plantation for high tea; the house was interesting although filthy, food ran out, and the bus ride was long with a preacher for a driver. I would not do this one again nor recommend it. INTERNET cafe: Usually very crowded and I got used to using the facilities late at night. During the hurricane bands around us, it was nearly impossible to connect and that was frustrating; but I'm still glad the service is available. DISEMBARKATION: Like everything else, all good things must come to an end. The good-byes are always hard, but once you've traveled as much as we have, you can honestly tell crew you will see them again and you do. It makes it a little bit easier...some laughs, some tears, but always great memories. The wait to get off the ship was long and arduous. Those that hired porters somehow got through the lines faster than the rest of us. It didn't matter as it worked out that timing put us outside just in time to see our beloved Simon Murray arriving (he was asked to work the charter that was starting) and were able to hug and chat for a bit. POST STAY: We stayed in NOLA for 2 days while awaiting Hurricane Ida which never produced herself in the area. Our first day we walked 5 blocks to Grand Isle for the most wonderful Po Boys we've ever had and the onion rings second best (only to Chicago Rib Shack in London). The streets were quiet on Monday night and most restaurants closed. Even during the day it was easy to shop and deals abounded while shopkeepers kept their ears to the radio weather reports. We stayed at the Marriott at the Convention Center on the 14th floor with a view of the river and cruise ships (Carnival Fantasy took Norwegian Spirit's place) as the Port Authority closed all traffic. It was a spectacular view and a very comfortable, affordable, conveniently located hotel. On Tuesday morning we flew to Houston (Continental), Seattle (Alaska Air) and then on to Portland (Horizon Air), arriving home by 9:00 p.m. (a long day).
Thank you to the officers and crew of Norwegian Spirit. When the GI hit, even the officers pitched in to help serve meals and check on passengers—don't let anyone ever tell you that YOU don't have SPIRIT! God Speed, dear friends.
You sometimes can hear the heavy footsteps from the bridge early in the morning, but you get used to it. The deck is wide, but narrow and the door is hard for small people to open/close. And the doorbells are waaaaay too loud.